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El Paso virus deaths up by 50% in 2 days; mayor again mandates face masks & bans gatherings

EL PASO, Texas — El Paso health officials reported three more deaths Thursday night, bringing the county's death count to seven over the past two days for a total of 21 fatalities.

With deaths increasing by 50% over the past 48 hours, city/county officials issued a new order mandating that everyone wear face masks while out in public. That directive comes as the state of Texas prepares to allow restaurants and retailers to open Friday with reduced capacity.

The city and county of El Paso also banned gatherings of any kind, saying the current spike in deaths is believed to be tied to mass gatherings that took place during the Easter weekend.

“We are disappointed to report another three deaths due to Covid-19, and our hearts go out to their families," said Dr. Hector Ocaranza, the City/County Health Authority, who identified the latest deceased victims as a man in his 50s and two women in their 80s and 90s respectively.

"The deaths we have seen are mostly made up of the most vulnerable and there is a strong correlation between the Easter break and the spike in positive cases,” the county's top doctor added.

Indeed, new virus cases jumped by 37, bringing the total close to the 1,000 milestone. Of the 924 infections to date, officials said 397 people had recovered, leaving 506 active cases among El Pasoans.

There were 53 virus patients hospitalized on Thursday night, and over half of those hospitalized - namely 31 - were in intensive care.

Mayor Dee Margo and County Judge Ricardo Samaniego, citing "the ongoing upward trend in positive cases" issued new emergency orders that make face coverings mandatory once again and also "prohibit all public and private social gatherings of any number of people occurring outside or inside a single household or dwelling unit."

Dr. Ocaranza pleaded with El Pasoans to abide by the orders to save lives.

“Mother’s Day is just around the corner. We want to remind everyone that gatherings with anyone who is not in your immediate household means that you are placing your loved ones—your mothers and grandmothers—at risk of contracting the virus," he said. "We need everyone to please take this serious and take care of each other.”

Below is a summary of the emergency directive that requires face coverings:

  • All individuals over the age of two (2), are required to wear some form of face covering over their nose and mouth, while outside of their home or residence.A face covering may include cloth masks such as bandanas, scarves and neck gaiters that fit snugly but comfortable against the face secured with ties or ear loops.
  • Parents and guardians of children over the age of two (2) and under the age of ten (10) shall be responsible for appropriately masking children when outside their residence.
  • A face covering is not required on anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, incapacitated, or exercising outdoors and not within 6 feet of any other individual not from the same household.
  • Wearing a face covering is not a substitute for maintaining 6-feet social distancing and hand-washing, as these remain important steps to slowing the spread of the virus.
  • The entire directive will be posted at www.epstrong.org under “Health Orders.”

Below is the latest coronavirus case locator map and other demographic information on the virus outbreak as provided by the health department.

Article Topic Follows: Coronavirus

Jim Parker

Jim Parker is the Director of Digital Content for ABC-7.

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